Is Idealism Juvenile?

The other day I decided to take a trip down memory lane and attend a karate class for the first time in over a year.

I felt so nostalgic seeing my old friends and doing those old drills. However my nostalgia didn’t peak until the end of class when we listened to the message of the week.

Contrary to popular belief, karate students train their mind just as much as they train their bodies. I mean think about it. It’s not every day us black belts have to defend ourselves from a garrison of shadow ninjas, but we do have to defend ourselves from horrible decision making. That’s why we get philosophical at the end of every class.

This week we discussed perseverance but what made the message remarkably interesting was that we discussed perseverance in its purest form.

Our master sat down and told us the story of the warrior and the spider:

One day a golden warrior ventured into battle with a vast army. They fought valiantly but unfortunately lost to a dark knight and his troops. The warrior, tired from battle, decided to crawl into a cave and hide from his enemies. Expecting to live there forever, he decides to watch a spider for entertainment. This spider was trying to build a cobweb but the howling wind kept knocking it down. The poor spider worked all day and all night until finally, it built a web sturdy enough to withstand any wind. Then the golden warrior exclaimed, “Wow! If this tiny spider can do it, I can too!” So he left the cave, rallied the troops, and ended up beating the knight. Thus ensuring peace throughout the land forever.

I felt like I was back in kindergarten. I could almost hear my mom saying, “Max, don’t put mud in your sister’s hair or I’m taking away your Thomas the Tank Engine tracks!”

“Okay Amy” I would reply passive aggressively.

Nobody messes with my Thomas the Tank Engine.

Seriously though, think about what pure perseverance means… What it actually entails…

It means never quitting… like ever.

More than anything this message made me think about how many times I quit recently. For example, sleeping through class, refusing to finish hard homework that wouldn’t be graded, not being there for my student orgs, not being there for my fraternity, not being there for my family, not talking to a girl that I thought was cute, not working out as much as I promised myself, not working on personal programming projects enough and the list goes on.

And that’s not to say I’m a horrible human being. I mean… I might be… but I still think I did fairly well at all the areas above.

But to never quit at anything still seems a little far-fetched to me. Which got me thinking even deeper: When exactly did I stop believing this was accomplishable?

To be honest, I can’t remember the last time I thought it was legitimately possible to never quit at anything. If I had even a shred of that belief in high school, college put a swift end to it.

After all, college is where good men and women go to die.

And yet, there we sat, a group of several 18 to 40 year olds being told to perfectly persevere as if we were back in kindergarten… as if we didn’t know the harsh reality that faced us after we changed out of our sweaty karate uniforms.

This begs the question: is idealism juvenile?

After all, us college students know better. We know which classes we can sleep through and re-watch the lecture online. We know what homework is going to be graded and which isn’t. We know that 80% of the time we are going to get rejected by that cute girl.

But then again, when has quitting become such a frivolous resource to us?

I’ll be honest, I miss when we were all back in middle school naively believing that we could be perfect someday. College is really lacking that spark that we once had. No, today it seems like we understand so well that our lives will never be ideal so we settle for much less more often then we should. Furthermore, we quit more then we should.

This makes me damn sad.

So is idealism juvenile?

Perhaps, but it’s exactly what we need right now.

What a stud-muffin

Thanks to Keith Hafners Karate for the character and the philosophy. I’ll be sure to swing by next week!

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